This is a personal blog, please observe Think Hour for ad hoc quasi-diary writings and Big Ideas for my ratified longform items. I will see you there.


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Globohomo Art // Josh KiwiFarms


If you spend a lot of time on the net, you are probably attuned to the coming-and-going of its main attractions and high promulgation/proliferation rates of new technologies, apps, UX/UI, social media and so on. One of the things that has exploded over, from my purview, the last year or two is “Globohomo Art”. Of course that isn’t the real name, but it is hard to argue against the moniker in some respects. One of the core components of art that would be included under the umbrella of this term is that, outside of a disturbing locus about the human form (specifically, the “artist” typically wouldn’t be so daring as to distend from reality the form of made-object or non-human animal), the art wears cultural ambiguity and near fetishistic adherence to “diversity” (be it in race, fatness, gender…) on its sleeve. While I would and will publicly ascribe and repeat this characterization, on my personal blog here I’d rather take a closer look and post the question to myself: Isn’t this just Clip-Art 2.0, coloured and manufactured for broader appeal and a SVG utilizing web, rather than something either explicitly lame or even nefarious?

Alegria Again

In an example of how much of a cattle-unit I am, I never even considered writing out thoughts or even looking into it closely until Josh from KiwiFarms brought it up in one of his weekly radio-shows, even months after I’d seen threads on 4chan explicitly calling it out and more months still since I’d started rolling my eyes whenever I saw the “style” tended to. As far as I remember my first encounters with something adjacent to this optical realm I remember somewhat enjoying the stuff, I felt it harkened to a classic clip-art mode of thought, and it wasn’t until the slow-seep to near-ubiquity was complete that I grew a distaste for it. The animation/graphics firm Oddfellows, who I discovered randomly and enjoyed a while back, seem to stand as one (early?) example in my memory-battery of a firm or artist who’s design/visuals incorporate, or are unconsciously intoned with, the umbrella’s abstract tenets of tapping into a flat and culturally implacable all-encompassment, whose resultant panracial agender in-world provides management agreeable agenda in-effect, while not necessarily entirely reveling in the absolute mechanics thereof.

Oddfellows Example

Now that I have presented an instantaneous slice of my own (possibly moronic) thought world, what does big man Josh Kiwi extend that gets my brain and spirit turning over at very big and hot rates. After he covered a lot of the basics which are echoed here, namely the vectorial/scalable and every-human-cum-no-human facets, he offers some more schizophrenic insights and analogizing that I avoided by way of not really caring or paying attention to the presentation of Silicon Valley sprung digi-destinations. In his rant, originating at a tweet from a United Nations account on Twitter which points out a discrepancy in the amount of Unpaid Domestic Work (Child Care) between Males and Females in an incorporated Male/Female-Type Household Partnership, he eventually divines that this umbrella of digital illustration originates from, or culminated in a defacto framework established by Facebook for manufacture of these artworks.

The “Alegria” ecosystem, designed by “creative collective” (agency?) “Buck” under what I can only assume is a Whopper contract with facebook, is a sort of system of illustrations, a more-than-a-style-guide or we could probably call it a library of vector amalgamations designed for contextual use on the Facebook site and app that is extensible/scalable/animatable. Unfortunately I am not cultured enough to give a cool description that cross-stitches art movements to triangulate the exact flavor, and it’s fairly simplistic anyway, very flat with touches of gradients and outlines. The main identifiers beyond the simple construction are humans of odd proportions and gaudy colour combinations, environmental objects amongst negative space and the scenes cued by the former two being augmented/injected with some kind of computer interface elements (like a chat bubble). I’m losing my mind trying to verbally flesh out something so vapid, so I will return to Josh’s rant which isn’t limited by a smooth brain.

Alegria More

Analogies to Ikea and Brutalism/Communism are made, as well as very good contextualizing of the system and its implications in an ever more increasingly web-centric world, where approximations of this algorithmic culture-less visual styleset will work alongside the presently-ubiquitous Javascript, where from the outside looking in we will achieve maximum efficiency and compatibility but as humans trapped in a corpo-cage you can be hired, fired and controlled as easily as the only code and illustration style you know can be used. The employees will themselves be able to replace their skin tones with scalable vector HSLa melanin globules in this future world, and finally we can all get along equitably. Now I am just joking, but I need to inject some absurdity to remind myself that this is just one strand tugging on the great invisible hand rather than a whole finger or two.

Alegria Parody

The (pre-)counter to all of this, which some may argue we have already blown past, is that this is just a novel, Picasso-esque, looking style that will probably be gone in one to ten years that is designed to be scalable (heavy raster images aren’t very useful to websites, unless it’s your personal photograph collection) and that as with all forces over time the power of social media giants and other web-tech purveyors ought to wane. Is there anything wrong with trying to depict humans that are relatable to no-one so that no-one feels left out? Is it worth wasting precious ad-money on a solution that will try to guess the users skin tone? Can you all hurry up and reflect one or two wavelengths of light already? As a voyeur, I myself am personally enjoying the phenomenon and the reaction to it, some funny guys have already begun parodying the art style normal to its inferred political axis.

Submitting // Joiceesketch

Submission One

I don’t mean to be urinating on artists (visual engineers?) who operate with the Globohomo principles outlined above. While the novelty wore off quick, some of the works resultant of or tinged with influences from the manifesto can be cool. This couldn’t ever be the be-all end-all of stronger implementation of vector images in the New Web World, and while perhaps not on quite the same philosophical level, there was at one point in time that libraries of clip-arts with similarly abstract pictorial elements were used very heavily. With machine learning offering up photographs of places that don’t exist and ever improving compression, who is to say that the web won’t bounce back into RasterLand once again? At least with vector graphics at the forefront the MegaCorps are necessitating that we hold some level of computing power in our own hands to draw web pages, and not just possessing paper thin screen-slates hooked up to satellites to receive an OnLive video stream of an off-site chrome browser loaded up in the Cloud rainforest. Ok. I was and am going to pay tribute to an artist from oddfellows.

Submission Two

On top of my apologizing and justifying above, I want to clarify that I don’t think Oddfellows or this artist - well, maybe Oddfellows - could be accurately encapsulated inside the Globohomo Art envelope, and it couldn’t really be the case for anyone unless this stuff hits critical mass and people are just not capable. Joyce Liu, here, is vastly capable though. You can check her page for many of her beautiful illustrations, very anti-Alegria in their complexity and detail. Mostly I want to focus on her series of works that depict, and are decorated with references to, Jiu Jitsu submissions. Combat sports is great, and it’s rare to see things like this referred to outside of the specific social chambers dedicated to the topic. Except for maybe some vague Bruce Lee idolatry or something.

Submission Three

Unfortunately, despite being the whole impetus for my writing of this small section being to specifically highlight these and get away from “globohomo” as a subject, these works are possibly the most Alegria-like art to be found on her personal page. Look at those tiny heads, the proportions. Of course the connection is extremely tenuous - throwing proportions out of whack is a common stylistic choice and it works great here to depict the art of tangling limbs. Very nice.